March 5, 2024

The Morlocks and the Eloi

Hi there,

This week we visit familiar territory: anonymous sperm donation, exploitation in clinical trials, selective reduction, multiple parents on a birth certificate, and conscientious objection, among others. None of this is particularly surprising.

However, I was surprised by our brief report on an article in the journal Neuroethics. The author has done some surveys which indicate that moral liberals are more humane than moral conservatives. The latter tend to have the “dark and socially destructive” personality traits of machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy.

I refused to be labelled either conservative or liberal, but dividing the world into Morlocks and Eloi seems to be a habit among neuroscientists. In 2009, a Cornell academic found that conservative ethics is motivated by disgust and is therefore irrational. In 2008, conservatives were said to have tidy rooms and square worldviews, while liberals were messy, but creative. Also in 2008 (an election year), geneticists claimed that voting patterns were genetically determined. In 2007 neuroscientists found that conservatives were dull plodders while liberals could handle  “informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty”.

I live in Australia where the culture wars are just a distant rumble. Would someone breathing the smoke and sweat of the front lines like to comment on whether or not this makes any sense? 

Michael Cook